Working remotely has become the norm in the current environment. As such, businesses are scrambling to figure out what the essential tools are to ensure that teams stay productive and connected.
According to Mimi Banks, founder and CEO of MB Social, there are four essential categories of tools to successfully work remotely:
- project management
- real-time file-sharing and collaboration
- video conferencing
Here are some of the most popular tools being used. Find out which is right for you and your team.
Which project management software is right for you?
Monday: Banks uses this in her own company. "This is an amazing tool where we can create 'boards' by project, assign roles, tasks, share links, and track progress. Rather than constantly following up, everyone can check on [projects] on Monday and then add comments to threads if we need to add or modify something. It helps us manage deadlines and have a central location for all related tasks." For five to 100 users, pricing ranges from $8 to $16 per user per month (more for Enterprise version with 200+ users).
Trello: Jack Choros, CMO at Iron Monk, recommends Trello for project management. "It helps us organize milestones and timelines." This free Kanban-style project management application takes projects and breaks them down into tasks and micro-tasks that can be assigned to team members. While each project may have a due date, the system focuses on status. Each task, which is visible to all members, moves users through standardized projects stages they can check off as completed so teams can track what's in progress at a glance. This helps to identify bottlenecks. Web, mobile, and desktop versions are available. Pricing ranges from free to $9.99 per user per month for business class and $20.83 per user per month for the enterprise version.
Asana: "We [use] Asana for assigning tasks," says Kenny Trinh, founder and CEO of Netbooknews. "It has helped us become productive while working from home, and it's free but gets the job done. This web and mobile application is designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work. It allows teammates to update each other, organize tasks and projects, or manage to-dos from anywhere. Pricing ranges from free for individuals or teams just getting started with project management, $10.99 per user per month for the premium version, $24.99 per user per month for the business version, and more for the enterprise version.
Google Docs: This free browser-based word processor allows users to create, edit, and share documents online and access them from any computer with an internet connection. It offers shared online document editing.
Dropbox: Like Google Docs, users can create, edit, and share documents, and it allows for shared online document editing for free. It also offers simple, secure e-signatures. The key feature is the free 500 MB of free storage space for referral sign-ups, which makes this a good tool for large document and photo storage. The paid versions range from $9.99 to $16.58 per month.
WhatsApp: Allows users to quickly send and receive messages and calls from computers and mobile devices. "We have various group chats ongoing all day long," says Banks. "We use the desktop version, so the window stays open all day long and connect as a team, so we don't feel alone. We also have group chats with clients, which they appreciate." Users can contact each other for quick questions. It helps with productivity and reduces email. And the best feature? It's free.
Slack: This tool allows users a single place for messaging and sharing files. This collaboration hub replaces email and is designed to support the way people work naturally so teams can collaborate as efficiently online as they do face-to-face. There are two methods of chat: channels (group chat) and direct message (person-to-person). Channels can be public or private, meaning teams or departments can set up their own channels. It also has 2-factor authentication to control for hacks. Pricing ranges from free to $12.50 per person per month, and there is also an enterprise version for very large companies or those highly regulated companies.
Zoom Meetings: Known as "Zoom," this HD video software allows companies to hold online meetings, no matter how large or small, from computers and mobile devices. Users can turn their cameras on and off—in case they need privacy—while attending meetings, as well as mute themselves. Some of the features include record meetings, screen sharing, chat, virtual hand-raising, polls, and mute participants. Zoom is free for 40-minute meetings with up to 100 participants. Should longer meetings be needed, there is a $14.99-$19.99 per month cost. One fun feature is the Virtual Background that allows users to set an image or video as their backgrounds during meetings.
Skype: This telecommunications application provides video chat and voice calls between computers, mobile devices, and smart devices. It also provides instant messaging. Users can transmit text, video, audio, and images. The basic form is free, but for business functionalities and features, the cost is $2 to $15 per month. The paid service provides conferencing for up to 250 people and is compatible with Microsoft Office tools. The pricier option allows for unlimited calls to 63 countries.
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